Voices-only Wednesday: Psalms and prayers from Ukraine
Welcome once again to Voices-only Wednesday.
This occasional feature highlights the best a cappella videos that come across our eyes — and ears — on the web.
Stan Bryan sent us a treasure trove of great a cappella hymns from Ukraine. Here are just a few. See more on his YouTube channel.
Ukraine in crisis: Prayers for the church and the future
• Ukrainians take ‘a real step of faith’ as they gather for national seminar
• Despite bombings, kidnappings, Ukrainian Christians ‘keep the faith and spread the Word’
• Ukrainian preacher: ‘The ministry of Jesus is the most stable thing in our country’
Bryan, who lives in Oklahoma, first visited the Eastern European nation in 1993, following up with contacts from a gospel campaign conducted by missionary Eddie Cloer, which resulted in about 100 baptisms. Bryan’s mission team helped launch the Petrovsky Church of Christ in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. (Recently, a mortar shell explosion killed one of the first converts in Donetsk. See our coverage, including Bryan’s remembrances of the church member, Galina Chugaevskaya.)
A few weeks ago, Bryan visited the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to conduct a Fall Singing Festival. Many of the participants are members of Petrovsky, the Cup of Life Church of Christ and other congregations in the east. Now they’re living — almost as refugees — in Kiev due to the conflict between Ukraine’s military and pro-Russian separatists.
In the above video, a Christian named Zhennya reads a prayer as the church members respond with choruses of “Alleluia.”
Zhennya was kidnapped by the separatists and — after much prayer — released, making this song all the more powerful.
Here’s another hymn, based on Psalm 117: “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.”
I recognized the soloist here — Miroslav Seliverstov. The son of a minister in eastern Ukraine, I met him in 2011 in Donetsk when he was studying at the Ukrainian Bible Institute, affiliated with Lubbock, Texas-based Sunset International Bible Institute. The violence forced the Donetsk school to close, though its administrators plan to reopen the school soon.
Here’s one more song, based on Psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
(In this video you’ll catch a glimpse of Imoh Anthony, a Nigerian native I also met in 2011 — at a church retreat on the Crimean Peninsula, which now is controlled by Russian separatists. Anthony moved to Ukraine to study computer engineering. It’s amazing and uplifting to see an African Christian singing hymns alongside Ukrainian Christians.)
“I love this work because it gives me an opportunity to be creative,” Bryan said, “and to try some things vocally that we are not used to in our churches in America, like singing some of our prayers, singing some of the Scriptures or reading a text while the congregation sings.”
What I really appreciate about these selections is their distinctly Eastern European flavor. I love it when Christians around the world write and sing original hymns in their own voice. I tend to prefer such hymns to translated versions of English standards.
Often, when I visit churches in foreign nations, the Christians there want to sing English hymns so I’ll understand them.
“No,” I insist. “I want to hear something in your language.”
It doesn’t matter if I can’t understand the words. The spirit comes across — no translation necessary.
Send us your selections for Voices-only Wednesday. Post your a cappella recordings to YouTube or Vimeo and send us the links. Or recommend your favorite videos in the comments section.